Dislaimer: None of the characters contained herein belong to me. But I do own 4 out of the 6 seasons on DVD. And that's about all I own. Please don't sue me.
A/N: Thanks, as always, to my marvelous Beta, Nightblight who is so generous with her time and talent. I am so grateful for her help and guidance. I also must add extra thanks to Kristen Elizabeth who gave me a second Beta and put way more time and energy into it than I ever expected and was gracious both when I did and didn't take her advice. Thank you both so much. It's not either of their faults that this story is crap. It's mine.
Major, major thanks to Scullyseviltwin and Cuttingrmflr for their amazing Beer Fu. I appreciate it, ladies.
The egg yolk had congealed on his plate and was beginning to dry while he quietly waited for her to look at him again. Greg, Warrick and Nick had headed off fifteen minutes earlier leaving Brass and Sara to finish their breakfasts since they had been the last to arrive after wrapping the night's case.
Brass wondered if she knew how long she had been staring into her coffee cup or that he had noticed she had switched back to coffee from tea since Grissom left, as if maybe she wasn't sleeping well and needed the extra caffeine to help her make it through shift. She was pale and had dark smudges under her eyes and it seemed to him she was moving and speaking slower than usual.
Sara idly watched a lone coffee ground float across the surface of the brown liquid rapidly cooling in her cup.
Eight days into his sabbatical with a packing trip to his home every other day and she was done. She had been all but living there for almost a year. But since she had not moved any furniture over she was able to handle moving her things alone.
She kept the key to his townhouse on her key ring instead of leaving it in his mailbox because she wasn't sure how she would feel when he came home. Not that she was likely to fall into his arms, but she wasn't sure she was ready to end their relationship without at least telling him to his face.
And she had promised to feed his bugs. She wasn't particularly emotionally attached to them, but they shouldn't have to suffer because she did.
When the clatter of the newest waitress at the diner dropping two full plates right behind their table failed to bring Sara out of her reverie of coffee contemplation, Brass spoke up. "Sara?"
She looked up guiltily. "Sorry, Brass. I was just…"
He snorted, "Thinking? Yeah, I put that together, all on my own."
She smiled crookedly at him, trying to think of an excuse. "The case…"
"Was completely run of the mill. Well, except for that runway model being all over Sanders like some sort of geek seeking missile. Do you think she was on drugs?" His craggy face was twisted in feigned puzzlement and she couldn't help it, she laughed out loud and then found herself sadly surprised by the sound.
How could she laugh when she felt so heavy and hollow at the same time? How did this happen to her? She had thought herself a strong, independent woman and yet, here she was in a place where the sound of her own laughter was startling? How could she have been so stupid?
When he saw her eyes beginning to water, he threw a twenty on the table and grabbed her arm, "C'mon. Coffee is not what we need."
A stop at the store and a confirmation of "You still drink Sam Adams?" and thirty minutes later they were standing in the small kitchen of his comfortable home opening their respective beers. He had obviously done work on the small house's main living areas, but the kitchen was in need of both redecoration and updating with appliances and colors easily dating back to the 1970s.
When she saw the label of the beer he was drinking, her lips twisted in a smile. "Arrogant Bastard?"
"Yeah, Warrick gave me a six pack for Christmas. I was thinking he might be trying to tell me something, but it's a pretty good beer, so, I'm going with the no hidden meaning…he was just practicing beer evangelism."
Her eyebrow quirked speculatively at his conjecture but she refrained from commenting as she hefted one of the extra large bottles. "Jeez, Brass, this is almost like two regular beers."
He turned a face of bland innocence to her. "At least with beer, I have always believed size matters." He offered her one of the bottles but she chose to stick to her Boston Lager.
Twenty minutes later, after a little halting small talk, leaning against his kitchen counter, as she cracked her second beer, he just dove in. "So, how bad are you missing Gil?"
She looked at him, surprised, and maybe, suddenly, a little angry. Pursing her lips, she decided she could answer honestly without giving anything away about their relationship or the anger and sadness that threatened to consume her. She ran her thumbnail down the middle of Mr. Adams' face, the condensation and pressure causing him to lose his head and the majority of his shoulders. She shrugged, "Not sure that I am," and took a long pull from her beer. She was, in fact, glad he was gone; it was easier to learn to live without him without him being around.
His face grew serious, "What happened, Sara?"
She shrugged again, striving to keep her tone level and disinterested. "He left. Keppler's here. Grissom will be back in a few weeks."
He pointed his beer bottle in her direction. "Don't try to play me, all right?" He shook his head. "What happened with the two of you before he left? I thought you two were headed for happily ever after there for awhile." He saw her flinch slightly at his words before she was able to hide it.
She contemplated his straight shooter, "don't bullshit me" face and sighed. He seemed to know so much and she was too tired, too heavy to pretend about anything. "So did I Brass, so did I."
Tired of standing, she slid down with her back against the cabinet until she was sitting on the floor, knees bent in front of her. "He told me he was leaving, taking a sabbatical and…he left." She studied the unattractive angular gold and green pattern of the linoleum on Brass's kitchen floor.
Brass looked at her and felt the weight of what was unsaid. Sighing, telling himself he was far too old to be sitting on the floor drinking beer with a woman twenty years his junior, he slid down to sit beside her. Sober, getting up would be difficult; after a few beers maybe he wouldn't feel how old he was feeling at the moment and rising wouldn't be as difficult as he was afraid of.
He said nothing when her cell phone rang a few minutes later and after studying the caller id she slid the phone across the linoleum until it bumped against the frame of the back door with a surprisingly sharp thwack.
When he opened his second beer, she opened her third. He eyed her for a moment before saying, "Cab or couch, OK?"
She nodded, pretending her cell phone wasn't ringing again. She told herself to remember to shut it off the next time she stood up. "Brass, this has got to be the ugliest linoleum I have ever seen."
He opened her fourth beer for her, saying as he handed it to her, "Good thing we don't have to work tomorrow. We're gonna feel like shit."
She gave him a ghost of a smile. "It'll be good to have a different reason."
"You know how I feel?" She contemplated the inside of her fifth beer by squinting into the top of the bottle.
"How's that?" Brass's third bottle of Arrogant Bastard was currently being rolled between his palms and he wondered if she was listing slightly to the left or if the wall was uneven.
"I feel," her lips twisted as she paused a moment, "I feel like I've been suckered."
His bottle had been on the way back to his mouth, but he brought it back down to give her a serious look. "Sara…"
She shook her head. "No, I know, that's the worst part." She leaned her head back against the cabinet and closed her eyes. "He didn't do it. I know I did it to myself."
He tried not to notice the wobble in her voice, not because he was embarrassed by it, but because he thought she would be embarrassed by it.
"I thought I was in a serious, committed relationship and in the space of a few minutes, I find out I'm not and I feel so fucking stupid, because I suckered myself into believing it was more than it is…was."
"You two…" what could he say? That he thought the two of them were meant to be together when Grissom had obviously hurt her so much. Could he urge her to keep giving him a chance if all it was going to do was keep hurting her? He made a mental note to kick Gil Grissom's ass when he got back to Vegas. "Is it over or can it be fixed?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. I moved all my stuff back to my place." She snorted a little. "I started before he even left. I don't even think he noticed. He can be so oblivious sometimes." Then she gave a small, bitter smile. "No, actually, I just found out I'm the oblivious one."
"Sara, if he doesn't even know you're this upset…maybe you should give him a chance." He took another swallow of beer.
She continued as if he hadn't spoken. "I think it's me. At first, I thought, you know, if I could just love him that would be enough. That didn't last long." She snorted a little self-deprecating laugh. "Then I thought if I could just be with him I'd be happy. Then I thought all I needed was to get over him. Then we were together and I thought we were happy…I knew he was struggling, but how could I not know it was…just…everything?"
"Sara, this last thing…these murders…that guy…it's been a rough few months…" He wondered if it was the beer that had robbed him of his ability to speak a full sentence or the fact that he was every bit as bad at handling emotional situations as his friend who had obviously broken his other friend's heart.
When he saw her face darken and tighten, moving back to Jersey suddenly struck him as a good idea. He tended to forget what a temper she had. Defending Grissom might not have been his best move here.
"Yeah, Brass, I get that." She blew out a breath. "It was hard on him. Our jobs are hard. But he never talked to me about it…about how hard it was. He never said he was thinking about getting away…he just told me he was going…no warning, no discussion…just 'I'm going' and he went." The detective's eyes widened in disbelief.
She took another sip of beer. "I know it's his nature to keep things to himself, but we were supposed to be beyond all this…I wouldn't have kept him from going, I would have told him to go, to do what was best for him…but he never even gave me the chance."
She drained the beer and continued, "I thought we were sharing a life…turns out we were just sharing some meals and a bed." He watched her swallow hard and waited. "And as hard…as hard as it is to admit and as much as I…care about him, I need more."
"You deserve more." He hoped his voice didn't betray his anger.
When he saw her chin wobble as she asked, "Do I?" he was trying to remember how much room he had left on his Visa and calculate if that was enough to buy a plane ticket to Boston so he wouldn't have to wait for Grissom's return to kick his ass.
Beer number six had her asking, "Did you ever," the words were ever so slightly slurred and his ears were feeling the buzz since he had started on his fourth beer and he heard the phrase as a single word "djever" which he translated as the rest of the sentence left her mouth, "play that game, Whack-a-mole?" She took another sip of beer.
He thought of a couple of horrifically loud birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese during Ellie's all too brief childhood. "The thing where the rodent pops up and you try to smack the hell out of the little bastard with the rubber mallet?" When she nodded, he grinned. "I love that thing! God, that was better than the firing range for relieving tension. We need to get one for the break room and name the mole Ecklie."
She snorted a little beer at that and had to cough several times to clear her nasal passages of Boston's finest ale. "That's the one," she said brightly as soon as she could speak. "Ya know, how they don't always pop all the way up? How sometimes they stick a little bit up, but not enough clobber 'em?"
"Uh-huh." His beer made its way to his mouth.
"That's what it's like being me with people. Get clobbereded enough and you test to make sure you aren't gonna get it again. Then you think it's safe and you pop all the way up and wham!" she smacked her hand on the floor and winced at the pain she had caused herself before continuing, "you get clobbereded again."
He regarded her with narrowed eyes. "That's not a word." Her analogy rolled forlornly into his brain and stayed, even as he challenged her vocabulary.
"What's not a word?" She narrowed her eyes right back at him.
"Clobbereded." His tongue tripped over it. "Not a word, Hon."
She tilted her head back and imperiously commanded, "Bring me a dictionary."
Beer seven found her flipping through an ancient and dog eared red, hard backed copy of Webster's New World Dictionary, finding words that amused her, but not necessarily in alphabetical order.
His eyes were closed listening to her read the meanings of words that intrigued her. He was slightly surprised she was still able to read. It was beyond him at the moment.
Plotting things to do to Gil Grissom that would cause his esteemed colleague an immense amount of agony was not, though.
She silently lost it somewhere during beer number eight.
She had stopped reading words sometime after "feckless: adjective, 1. weak; ineffective 2. careless; irresponsible." She had made a joke about how she'd rather be feckless than fuckless but supposed if feckless meant weak, she was both right now.
He opened his eyes when she remained quiet for a while to see a torrent of tears streaming down her face, shoulders shaking with the effort of her silent sobs.
"Hey, now." He slid over to her and wrapped an arm around her pulling her against his chest and as she burrowed gratefully into him he remembered what it felt like to love someone just because you did and why human contact was necessary to survive.
During his fifth beer, he was slipping her shoes off and shifting her long, listless legs under the covers of his bed as she mumbled. He put a fresh bottle of water and some aspirin on the nightstand and a trash can by the bed.
Just as he turned off the light and was closing the door she spoke up, "Brass?" her voice was both wobbly and slurred.
"Yeah?" He looked at her face and the fall of her dark hair in the wedge of light coming through the half open door.
"You said couch," she sounded confused.
"I'll take the couch." His voice was gentle, soothing.
"Why?" She was nearly asleep.
"Because you deserve better, Sara. And somebody ought to give it to you."